Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From the Home Front....

I'm so sorry to have been silent as of late.  We had a tragedy and I haven't been up to putting pen to paper.  With a renewed spirit, I will update you on our latest happenings.

Our garden is growing well.  We have had a problem with Magpie's snapping the tender beans, peppers and onions before they are able to really spread their leaves, so there are a few sad looking plants.  Our heirloom bush beans are far outperforming the garden variety garden center beans that we planted just to use them up before the seeds were too old.  The tomatoes are growing famously and so are a majority of the peppers.  I can't wait to can my favorite tomato, pepper, onion mixture this fall!

Peas happily climbing the trellis

Our potato towers are actually  working!  They haven't become as green with leaves as I would like to see, however, on close inspection is would appear that all of the potatoes are sprouting, just at different rates.  We planted 8.8 pounds of potatoes, so we will weigh the harvest and give an end of year report.

Potatoes reaching out from their tower

One raspberry bed is heavy with fruit, while the other is bushy and healthy but won't put on berries this year.  We do have a few strawberry plants but not enough for preservation.  They are, however, just right for a handful of warm berries eaten out-of-hand.

A portion of one of our raspberry beds
The Buckfast bees are busy, busy, busy.  We have been caught off-guard by their super-quick build-up.  I put off ordering extra hive bodies, due to our experience with the Italians, and was horrified upon my most recent inspection of the hives to discover that they had completely filled all of their frames and were getting ready to swarm due to lack of space!  With no hive bodies to add to their home, Maid Elizabeth and I improvised.  I dug up two 10 frame hive bodies, stapled cardboard on either side of the bottom (about 1 1/2 " on each side - just enough to keep the bottom of the hive body from being open to the air) and set the 10 frame bodies on top of the 8 frame bodies.  I hoped that would give us enough wiggle room to get the new hive bodies here and assembled.  At this point, I think our foil worked.  The bees are contentedly filling the new frames with comb, which we will transfer to the 8 frame bodies when they arrive.

10 frame hive bodies perched atop 8 frame bodies - not something you see every day!
Notice the ratchet straps holding the hives into place.  The night we put our improvised hive bodies into place, a sudden and somewhat violet storm descended upon us.  I awoke to the crack of thunder and pouring rain.  Immediately I thought of the unprotected hives, teetering in a highly unusual configuration and woke Miss Serenity to brave the weather and help me secure the hives.  At 1:30 a.m., armed with a flashlight and rubber boots, we made our way to the hives and fiddled with ratchet straps until we had them securely in place.  Thankfully, the bees slept through our endeavor and we escaped unscathed.

Sir Knight replaced the broken window in my kitchen door!

And from the outside

My beautiful daughters - friends in the way only sisters could be.

The sun room dressed for summer

The sought-after outside bedroom

The children's cottage
Just a small note on our tragedy.  Our beloved dog Reaper died in a horrible accident.  Reaper was like no other dog.  He managed to capture each one of our hearts in a way that no pet ever has.  I must admit, we mourned our treasured pet - and really, we continue to mourn him.  He was a dog, but he was also our guardian and protector.  We are so very thankful to have known our dear Reaper.

I NEVER allow animals on the furniture...

But he stole my heart.

Enjoy these beautiful days of summer.  Savor every moment. 

Until next time.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Homestead Security

A number of months ago, a new addition came to live on our homestead.  His name is Stoic the Vast.  He is a Tibetan Mastiff.

Maid Elizabeth had been researching this breed for years, admiring their protective qualities and lion mane, but we never expected to be able to afford one of our own.   In a wonderful turn of events, we happened across Stoic in the next state over and were able to pool our resources and bring him home.  Boy, were we in for a whole new dog experience!

Tibetan Mastiffs are known as Lion Dogs and for good reason.  They are very cat-like canines.  Their very walk is the walk of a lion and combined with the thick "mane" that surrounds their neck and travels down the top of their back they can be more than a little intimidating.  In their native Tibet they are referred to as "Door-Post Dogs" due to the fact that they are chained (and I mean chained, with huge logging chain) to the door-post of their owners homes during the day and let off their chains at night to roam and protect the town.

Tibetan Mastiff (image from Google)
When Stoic first came to live with us, we was friendly but reserved.  He was very interested in the children and watched Sir Knight and I with a keen eye, reserving judgement until he knew us better.  After about a month, Stoic decided we were his family and his entire demeanor changed.  For the first few weeks, he allowed anyone in our home with nothing more than a quick sniff before granting them entry.  Once we became his, NO ONE was allowed in the house, on the driveway or even on the county road without his consent.  He changed from a furry teddy bear into a fierce defender of everyone he considered his.  While still a big love with his family, he became an entirely different beast with everyone outside his immediate circle.

Tibetan Mastiff's only allow a very few men into their lives - 2 or 3 is their limit (unless you are immediate family).  They love children and tolerate women (unless they perceive them to be a threat).  We have a family friend that drops newspapers off every few days and always brings treats to the dogs.  For the longest time Stoic refused to take treats from Joe, requiring one of his people to feed him the treats.  At length, he allowed Joe the honor of hand feeding him.  Thinking that he had accepted Joe into the family, we asked him to shouse-sit over while we visited my folks.  Stoic spent the entire duration of our trip chained outside - he refused to allow Joe to even get close enough to him to unleash him and bring him into the house.  Joe was allowed to fill his food and water dishes, but he was not allowed to touch him in our absence.  Joe wasn't considered one of us.

Not our Tibetan Mastiff (from Google)
As our Tibetan Mastiff moves through our house, I am often awestruck.  He moves like a cat, even to the point that he will rub up against one of us when he wants attention.  He moves silently, with incredible grace.  If he hears or sees something outside and becomes concerned he growls with a low rumbling growl that begins at his tail and moves through his body.  Quite frankly, his growl makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  I can't tell you how thankful I am that I am on this side of his teeth!  If he wants to look out the kitchen door window, rather than putting his paws on the door, he sits right up on his haunches and looks out the door - I've never seen anything like it!

Tibetan Mastiff's are a home defense dog only.  They are not herd guardians or  hunting dogs or even  companion dogs (although I think Stoic is a wonderful companion) - they are guard dogs pure and simple.  They do not listen to their owners when they are told to "stand down", they believe they know better than you when there is a threat - and they will act on it.  They require a very well fenced yard or preferably a logging chain - they will wander.  It is not that Tibetan Mastiff's aren't loyal, they are, but they just think they can defend and guard you from anywhere in the county.  They are EXTREMELY defensive of their own property and people, however, they are very manageable when you have them on a leash outside of their own home ground, so taking them for walks in the park is great.  Just remember, these dogs must be on a leash at all times!

Stoic has not yet gotten his full mane - but it's coming!
Tibetan Mastiff's are not for everyone, but they definitely are the perfect dog for our family.  Before investing time, energy and money in this beautiful breed of dog, do your research - make sure they are a right fit.  One website that we found extremely helpful is Tibetan Mastiff  It is full of helpful facts and tidbits, along with history and pedigree information.

Maid Elizabeth came across a list of rules for a Tibetan Mastiff's household.  We found these to be very true to form (minus the Karma thing)!

Rules in a Tibetan Mastiff's House

I am the keeper of this house.  I am also one of the most ancient of warriors.  Do not even think about coming into my home without an invitation.  Not only is it bad Karma to tick off a warrior, if I have to defend my house or my family, you are mine.  I will keep you.  I do not suffer fools.

I am the legendary Tibetan Mastiff.  Tibetan is in my name.  It is very significant, a big deal, and of colossal importance.  Tibet is named after me.  How cool is that?!  Not only is Tibet named after me, the Tibet flag has my ancestors on it (well, a poor imitation, the artist was not very good).

I am the boss.  No impertinent  behavior allowed - except mine or the children.  If you are not me or them, behave.  It is your responsibility to be familiar with my rules, to be sure you understand them.  This is my house and all of the stuff here is mine.  Stuff is, balls, sticks, boats, couches, remote controls, socks, beds, humans (especially children), treats, shoes and anything else I want.  And it's all mine, mine, mine.

I am aristocratic and blue blooded (my pedigree is better than yours).  I am brave, obstinate, intelligent, stubborn and alert.  I can be dignified if I want to (but I don't want to).  I am fast, agile, stubborn, playful, sweet and loving.  I do try to be stubborn, but I always know best.  Sometimes a dogs got to do what a dogs got to do.  I want to please my humans, but I am a thinking dog.  I have energy to burn, places to go and things to do.  Leave me behind at your own risk.  Whatever happens is your fault, not mine.

To all who enter my home:  Expect a complete body search performed by me.

D.D. Anderson (2008)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Apple Cider Vinegar - Good for What Ails You

Years ago we had a neighbor (he was rather old and crotchety) who was a master farrier.  He took a shine to Maid Elizabeth and offered to trim and shoe her horse's hooves in exchange for her doing odd jobs around his homestead.

One day, as Elizabeth was filling feed bunks with hay I watched as the farrier filled buckets with grain. Into the feeder he dumped a scoop of steamed oats, followed by a half a scoop sweet feed.  On top of that he poured a ladle full of amber colored liquid.  Never having seen anyone feed their horses quite like that before, I asked what he had poured over the feed.  He looked up at me, one eyebrow raised and said "its apple cider vinegar".  He might as well have added "you dummy", but he just shook his head instead.

I didn't want to seem foolish, but I just couldn't let it go.  I had to know why he fed his horses vinegar.  And I was REALLY interested to see if they ate it!  Well, I didn't have to wait long to find out if vinegar was offensive to the horse palate - they ate it right up, just like it was a bucket full of molasses grain.  I hesitated a moment and then blurted "why did you feed them vinegar?"  Master Farrier rolled his eyes, sighed and said "it's a dewormer, of course".

I wasn't about to ask him any more questions, but I did tuck that nugget of information away for further research.  Although I have never come across any "scientific" evidence that ACV (apple cider vinegar) works for deworming, the web is full of anecdotal evidence which goes far beyond treating animals for worms and includes fly control, skin/coat problems and anti-bacterial solutions.

I became even more intrigued with the amazing properties of ACV when I read about spraying it on weeds to eradicate them.  We have a problem with thistles and hawk weed and although commercial weed killer will kill them, the hawk weed especially, always seems to come back the next year.  Eager to put the vinegar to the test, I poured some (full strength) into a spray bottle and sprayed both hawk weed and thistle plants and waited to see what would happen.  It took about 4 hours to notice any difference.  At first, the plants just looked a little poorly.  After 4 hours they looked positively droopy.  The next day....both the thistle and the hawk weed were shriveled up masses.  Some of the larger plants required another spraying the next day before they succumbed to the ACV, however, everything I sprayed the vinegar on gave up the ghost - eventually.  I didn't do a mass spraying of all of the invasive plants in my 30 acre yard simply because I didn't have enough vinegar, however, it really does keep the weeds down in my little garden areas.  And I would prefer to use ACV over commercially produced weed killer any day.

Ready to strain and rebottle
As if I wasn't sold on ACV already, I came across a little book called "Folk Medicine".  It was written by an old country Doc in Vermont back in the '50's by the name of D.C. Jarvis, M.D.  Dr. Jarvis spent a lifetime treating rural Vermonters and, being equipped with an inquisitive mind, began to notice a connection between the use of ACV in his patients and their overall health.  His book is chock full of both anecdotal and scientific evidence as to the efficacy of ACV in not only promoting good health but also treating sickness and disease.

Just for the record, I do not believe that Apple Cider Vinegar (or anything else, for that matter) is a cure-all or a miracle drug.  I think it works great for some things and not for others.  I think it works differently with different physiological make-ups.  That being said, I think ACV is an absolute requirement for any homesteader/prepper/survivalist.  I think the list of its benefits it too long for one small blog post and its potential uses are beyond measure.  The fact that you can make it in your kitchen, in sufficient quantities to keep your animals healthy, your family healthy and your weeds unhealthy is merit enough to make it worth your while.

Here is the best part of all.  Apple Cider Vinegar is a snap to make.  There are numerous methods of making vinegar - simply Google it and find the method that is most convenient for you.  I made ACV last fall, after partaking in a friends apple cider pressing.  My method of ACV is possibly the most simple and the most effective.  I started with 6 gallons of fresh apple cider.  Although we originally put all of the cider into a 6 gallon carboy, to make ACV we poured it into 7 (1) gallon jars (leaving room to stir).  We did strain the cider as we poured it into the gallon jars to get most of the big apple chunks out, so that the ACV would be a little clearer.  After putting the cider in the jars, we put a bit of "mother" into each jar of cider.  The "mother" is the icky looking stuff that floats at the bottom of the apple cider vinegar that you buy at the health food store (Bragg's).  It almost looks like a human organ, a big flat matt of a thing - but, this is the good stuff!  My "mother" came from a friend who had made her own vinegar the year before.  She just separated a big clump from her "mother", put it into a pint jar and sent it home to become my "mother".  There is no measurement required for your "mother".  I just divided the "mother" that I had (it turned out to be about 2 T per jar) between the 7 jars of cider and called it good.

Gallons of ACV at the ready
Apple cider vinegar needs all of the good stuff floating around in the air (yeast) to get good and frothy and strong.  Rather than putting lids on my cider I cut pieces of cheesecloth, placed them on the jars and secured them with big rubber bands.  I set the jars on the shelf in my kitchen and let the "mother" and the yeast do their thing.  Every so often, I would take the cloth off the tops of my jars and give them a stir.  I should have done this every week, however, I got to it about every three weeks.  It didn't really seem to effect the vinegar.  The jars sat on my shelf for about 3 months when I noticed that the liquid was starting to evaporate.  At this point I taste tested it (wow! - it was super strong vinegar).  I strained the vinegar out of the 1 gallon jars (making sure to save the "mother) and bottled it in more manageable bottles.  The "mother" I put in a liter jar and covered with apple cider vinegar and put in a cool place.  It will wait there until next fall when I make another batch or until someone needs a bit of "mother" for themselves.

At this point we have no large animals to feed ACV to, however, we do have children.  Every morning, the kids and I line up for our glass of apple cider vinegar (just a bit of vinegar in the bottom of a glass filled with water).  It is an invigorating way to start the day!  Although not a miracle cure, ACV comes pretty close!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fear is the Beginning of Wisdom

I have noticed an alarming trend with suburban or city folks moving to the country.  They have no fear.  Now while at first glance, this may seem like a good thing, but when you delve a little deeper, you uncover a serious cause for concern.

I am thrilled that more and more people are seeing the signs of the times and exiting cities.    They have realized that in the event of a catastrophic happening, the city is the last place they want to be.  They are embracing gardening, animal husbandry and country living.  But, more often than not, they do not understand or respect country ways.

One of the hallmarks of a person that was raised in the country is their understanding of animals.  Country folk rely on their animals, be they cow dogs, horses or milk cows.  Their animals are necessary for their survival and they care for them well, however, they understand that they are animals.  They don't attribute warm and fuzzy feelings to the Holstein bull or expect their draft horse to know it hurts when they stomp directly on their instep. They are animals, and as such, are to be treated with the respect due a 700 - 1200 pound beast.  People who have grown up around large animals realize that a horse can kick you through a fence in a heartbeat and that a cow, however gentle she may be, can kill you in an instant.   People who know animals understand that you should never put yourself between two large animals and that it is foolish to be in the midst of a pasture with a herd of horses.  Animals often don't mean to hurt people, however, due to their shear size, and the fact that they are animals, they often do.

Dogs, cats, goats, sheep, chickens - they all have their place, but they need to know where their place is.  Country folks don't let their dogs jump up on them (muddy paws and all) and they don't let their chickens have free range all of the time.  Nobody likes wading through mounds of chicken poop to get to the front door!  When it comes right down to it, country people realize that animals have their place and people have theirs.  It is unsafe and unsanitary to commingle the two.

A while ago I wrote a story about our next door neighbor, King.  He rescued my brother and I from a stampeding herd of range cattle by throwing us into a trailer that was attached to his tractor.  By the time he got us to our parents, he let loose with more than a few carefully chosen words, chastising my parents for their ignorant, city ways.  Essentially, he told them that they had better cultivate a healthy fear of large animals or they would very likely find themselves mourning over their children's graves.  King spoke from experience.  His own mother had been killed by her wonderful, gentle milk cow.

The truth of the matter is that animals are not people.  They don't think like people, they don't act like people and they don't feel like people.  They are animals.  If you are moving to the country, please, find some country people.  Watch them, learn from them, be willing to change the way you think.  Your life and the lives of the people you love may just depend on it.

Animals are wonderful.  They are necessary. They are useful.  But, they are dangerous.  Fear is the beginning of wisdom.  Exercise wisdom and live.